TACLOBAN CITY -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) is eyeing at least 5 percent growth in tourist arrivals in Eastern Visayas region with the launching of its Bring Home a Friend to the Philippines (BHAF) campaign.

DOT Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes said the campaign would greatly benefit the region considering the high number of overseas workers from Leyte and Samar provinces. 

Records of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that at least 40,655 people from the region’s six provinces are employed abroad.

“Our people abroad are just waiting for reason and right timing to bring home a friend. Through this campaign, we will show 365 reasons why we can invite tourists with pride,” Tiopes told reporters during the BHAF regional launch Monday night in this city.

BHAF was first launched in 1994, spearheaded by then Tourism Secretary Mina Gabor. It aimed at encouraging Filipinos to invite their foreign friends to visit the country.

The program revived by Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo runs, for six months from October 2017 to April 2018.

The contest allows Filipinos residing here and abroad as well as expatriates based in the Philippines to win prizes in the electronic raffle draw for simply inviting their foreign friends to come visit the Philippines.

Prizes to be won for “sponsors” (Filipinos inviting foreign friends) include an Eastwood Le Grand Tower studio condo unit (first prize), an orange metallic Toyota Vios 2017 Model (second prize), or PHP200,000 worth of gift certificates from Duty Free (third prize).

Meanwhile, prizes for “invitees” (foreign friends visiting the Philippines) include two roundtrip international business class tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Palawan (first prize), two roundtrip international premium economy tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Cebu (second prize), and two roundtrip international economy tickets plus two roundtrip domestic tickets to Davao (third prize).

To join, the sponsor and invitee must duly accomplish the registration via the BHAF microsite accessible via the DOT website tourism.gov.ph or through the booths located at specific airports. Full instructions can also be found in the website.

The region is expecting a higher share of the BHAF to the 20 percent annual growth rate for both domestic and foreign guest arrivals.

Of the 3.23 million projected arrivals by year 2022, 81,936 of them are foreign and 3.15 million of them are domestic.

In 2016, the region welcomed 1.2 million guests, higher than the 1.09 million a year ago.

The region consists of the provinces of Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar, Samar, and Southern Leyte, and the cities of Baybay, Borongan, Calbayog, Catbalogan, Maasin, Ormoc and Tacloban, the Eastern Visayas' regional center.

These areas are known for dive tourism, nature adventure, historical sites, picturesque islands, biodiversity, and nature adventure. (PNA)